By: Katie Sobiech
The Akron Beacon Journal Crime Watch for August 2nd, 2009, recorded 68 reported cases of theft, rape, assault and other crimes committed in our area. Two days later the Akron Police Department recorded thirty five burglaries (August 3rd and 4th).
The numbers are high, but the cases that continue to go un-noticed may be even higher. This is why many find it crucial to have events, such as the National Night Out Against Crime (NNO), a crime/drug prevention event sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch (NATW).
“It is a must. We do it every year,” Gary Wyatt, Founder and Director of He Brought Us Out Ministry, said of the NNO.
This year was the 26th Annual recognition, which took place on August 4th at twelve different locations in Akron.
Purpose of National Night Out
Residents, law enforcement agencies, civic groups, businesses, churches and other organizations in the community are encouraged to come together and take a stand against criminal activity every year, all across our nation.
The four main purposes of the NNO include: * Heightening crime and drug prevention awareness;
- Generating support for, and participation in, local anticrime programs;
- Strengthening neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships;
- Sending a message to criminals that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.
“The focus is to let the community know that we are not going to welcome crime into the neighborhood,” Perry Clark, Director of Truly Reaching You Ministries, who helped run the event at the Church of God MPGT on Cole Avenue said. “We are coming in with the hope of cleaning the neighborhood up and ridding it of crime. Not so that they run to another corner, but to show them that there’s another way of life.”
To promote and bring awareness to the event they throw block parties, have cookouts, parades, flashlight walks, contests, youth programs and visits from local police and sheriff departments.
This Year’s Events
This year was quite a success. Nearly a thousand people showed up at just two of the twelve locations.
“We had a wonderful turn out of the community,” Clark said.
Wyatt who ran the event on the corner of Howard Street and Tallmadge Avenue said “We probably had every nationality represented that makes up the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Each location had its own unique set up, most including prizes, clothing and food giveaways, beverages, music, speakers and even health care. Summa Health Systems provided prostate screenings and blood pressure checks. Western Reserve and Buckeye Health offered services as well.
“We had giveaways of toiletry items, household items and lawn care equipment,” Clark mentioned, along with other things.
The location Wyatt attended gave away massage and restaurant certificates and school supplies and back packs for kids.
“We gave about 300 book bags and all kinds of goodies,” Wyatt said. “We had churches perform, mimes, positive gospel rap and a choir.”
Then, at 7:15 they took a walk around the block with the police.
“The parade around the block was to promote anti crime, peace and unity,” Wyatt explained.
Attendees at the Church of God location included Judge Quinn, Judge Tom Teodosio, Billy Soule, the assistant to the Mayor, Congress woman Betty Sutton, Marco Summerville of the Akron City Council, Chief Executive Officer Malcolm Costa of the Akron Summit Community Action Inc., numerous churches, ministry volunteers and community members.
Speakers at the Church of God event included Billy Soule, Judge Quinn, Judge Tom Teodosio, Betty Sutton, Pastor Brunson of the Church of God and Perry Clark.
Many churches were represented, including Akron Bible Church on Brown Street, Christ is the Answer on East South Street and Shiloh Church.
“The different churches come together collectively and work in unity to make a difference in the community,” Clark said. “They are showing a great interest in participating in making a difference in the community.”
Churches such as Akron Bible Church, Macedonia Methodist Church, Hudson Community Chapel and many others pulled resources to provide hundreds of backpacks filled with school supplies, care packages and stuffed animals for kids K-12.
“We are grateful for them coming and walking beside us,” Clark said.
A healing event was held at 6:30 PM at Firestone Park Community Center to promote peace in the neighborhood and pray for the Marshall family. Marty Marshall, brother of Rev. Steve Marshall of Maranatha Bible Church, and Greg Alchier were beaten by a group of teens in the park after a fireworks display on June 27th.
The event was sponsored by the Akron PeaceMakers, a group of area youth who work to promote peace and speak out against drugs and violence.
Another goal to promote peace, Clark said, is to get rid of the empty, abandoned homes and uncared-for properties in the community, which has only contributed to the amount of crime. We want to clean it up and make it a safer, more desirable community to live in.”
He shares his thanks, “I would like to say a special thanks to all of the surrounding suburban churches coming into the city, willing to be of help to the inner city ministries. Without their resources it would be nearly impossible to do.”